Southern Politics

As I read and write about the “birther bill” that is apparently scheduled to appear before the Georgia Legislature’s Government Affairs subcommittee, I am struck with a few responses. First, I agree with columnist Kyle Wingfield of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a conservative ironically, that the bill is an embarrassment to Georgia and to conservatives in general. Coming from a faculty member at a university, I am sure this surprises no one, but those same sentiments being expressed by a conservative columnist I feel debunks the notion of ideological bias this response is likely to elicit.

Since the “birther” movement began, evidence has been readily available documenting that President Obama is an American citizen. Further, the argument made by so called “constitutionalist,” Rep. Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross) carries little weight. He argues that it is not just about this president, but rather about enforcing a constitutional responsibility to make sure that future presidents and vice presidents are eligible to serve. If you buy that, I have a bridge and some stock options in this great company called Enron I would like to sell you. This is totally about Obama, and anyone who does not see that is a fool.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this bill is that there are so many other problems that will be put off because the Government Affairs committee will consider this bill. There are plenty of issues the state could devote scarce attention to that are policy specific, rather than personal. Does anyone remember the health care law? Come on Republicans, surely you are capable of better than this? Surely the state did not elect you to codify conspiracy theories? Surely you are capable of putting aside personal loathing of a president, even on policy specifics mind you, to address such problems as a severely damaged economy? Maybe we should substitute discussion about the draconian cuts to education, particularly higher education, that directly threaten the future of Georgia?

Maybe I am expecting too much. After all, this is the Georgia Legislature, where important problems go to die, and anything short of a narrated video of Barack Obama’s birth is probably insufficient.

Paul Rutledge

Paul Rutledge

Dr. Paul Rutledge is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Planning at the University of West Georgia. Rutledge teaches and conducts research on American national government, including the presidency, state and local politics, interest groups, the media and politics, and agenda setting and public policy. His research has appeared in Political Research Quarterly and he also has authored multiple contributions to the Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior. Professor Rutledge has also written commentaries on the 2010 State of the Union Address and the 2010 health care bill, which were picked up by CNN Newswire, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and the Times-Georgian. His current research continues to focus on the ability of the president to influence public policy through the content of his agenda, the political calculations that impact the size and scope of the president’s agenda, presidential coattails, and comparing agenda-setting processes in presidential systems (primarily in Latin America).